Eight IOCs responded to Aramco’s initial inquiry in September. Besides Total and Chevron, the respondents were ConocoPhillipsand ExxonMobil Corporation, both of the US, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, the UK’s BP, Italy’s Eniand China’s Sinopec. The next stage in the project implementation will be the start of discussions on the project’s detailed process design and cost analysis.

The Jubail refinery is the second in-kingdom grassroots export scheme proposed to be set up by Aramco in partnership with an IOC. In late October, Aramco completed the first round of discussions with three shortlisted IOCs – Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil – looking to acquire an equity stake in a proposed new refinery at Yanbu. The facility will also have nameplate capacity of 400,000 b/d and is estimated to cost $5,000 million.

Both projects will involve the installation of naphtha hydrotreaters and splitters, twin catalytic reformers, isomerisation units, distillate hydrotreaters, vacuum distillation units, hydrocrackers and fluid catalytic crackers (FCCs).

The facilities will take about three years to build and are set to produce clean fuels – gasoline, diesel, petroleum coke, bitumen and vacuum gas oil (VGO).

Parsons E&C, part of Australia’s WorleyParsons, has already carried out a study recommending the utilisation of three process streams to be driven by a varying mix of feedstock for the refineries.